FORMER MI6 boss insisted the US won’t cut the UK off from its intelligence sharing if Huawei is allowed to participate in the UK’s 5G network.
Sir John Sawyers said the US “needs” British intelligence which helps foil terror attacks in America and threats from the President Trump was sabre rattling.
Sir John told BBC Radio 4 that China posed a security risk to the UK, but said intelligence services were well up to the job of managing that risk.
“There is no doubt China does pose an espionage threat to the UK, we shouldn’t be naive about that,”
“We believe we can manage the risk, we have been doing so in the last 15 years or so.”
There are fears that Huawei, who are heavily influenced by the Chinese government, could use Huawei technology to spy on people and gain valuable information on the UK via the 5G network.
Some critics have even said they could even install a “back door” to disable the UK’s communications network.
He said the row between the US and the UK was partially sabre-rattling, after President Trump threatened to withdraw intelligence sharing between the two nations.
“When I was chief of MI6 there were major terror plots against the US that we here in the UK foiled and prevented them from taking place,” he said.
“We depend a great deal on our five eyes partners (the US, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK) but they also depend on us.”
When I was chief of MI6 there were major terror plots against the US that we here in the UK foiled and prevented them from taking place
Sir John Sawyers
“(The US) know they depend on us for security intel, and it is unlikely they will increase the threat to them by curbing our intelligence partnerships,” he said.
Sir John said President Trump was playing the long-game and using the Huawei row as a chip in his trade war against China.
The EU has urged Boris Johnson to call Donald Trump’s bluff over Huawei, also accusing the US President of sabre-rattling.
Australian politicians banned Huawei from participating in their own 5G mobile infrastructure after concerns it could be a conduit for espionage, but the former MI6 boss said it was not the right position.
“We have to be clear, China does post an economic, strategic challenge, and there is an intelligence risk but do you exclude all Chinese students? Refuse to take Chinese contracts, or manage the risk?”
Sir John said the argument between the UK and the US over the Chinese telecomms giant was about trade and competitiveness rather than security risk.
“The Americans are also pursuing a sort of industry approach – they don’t have a company that is active in the telecomms network business,”
“I think the Americans would like to get back into this market so it suits them to put pressure on us to take the cost ourselves,” he said.
Other European countries such a Germany have already agreed to give Huawei access to their 5G Networks.